One of the important megatrends driving cultural change is digitalisation. According to the Federal Statistical Office (FSO), around 97% of the population uses the internet, 66% for five hours or more per week (2019). More than half of Swiss companies in the service sector are active on social media (2017).
Digitalisation permeates society in almost all areas. Digital policy is, therefore, a central topic, bringing broad challenges and opportunities that digitalisation has uncovered.
On 11 September 2020, the Federal Council adopted an updated “Digital Switzerland” strategy. It sets several goals to take advantage of digitalisation as a resource; from equal access, digital empowerment, education, research and innovation, infrastructure and security to projects such as Smart Cities e-Government and political Participation, resources strategy and artificial intelligence. Priorities for the years 2020-2022 include the protection of the environment (enabled by new technologies and data), data spaces and the digital economy.
Copyright is a very important topic. Since the 1st of April 2020, new measures adopted by the Federal Council came into force. These measures regard the modification of the copyright law (and related laws). The changes introduced concerned better protection for artists and creators (e.g. protection of photographs), more effective measures against piracy (especially in relation to hosting sites), better access to online material (e.g. resources for research) and, finally, the application of the Marrakesh Treaty in relation to better access to texts for the blind and visually impaired.
Digitisation and the Cultural sector: Now
The Culture Dispatch 2021-2024 places special emphasis on the ongoing process of digitisation shaping all areas of society. Planned measures related to public cultural institutions include:
- As in the past, Pro Helvetia will regularly review the impact of digitisation on funding instruments in all disciplines and adapt them where necessary, for example opening up funding instruments for artistic works that are not tied to physical carrier media. The “Culture and Business” programme, which has been established since 2016 with a funding focus on design and interactive media, will be integrated into the regular funding activities in order to, among other things, help realise the potential of young developers.
- The SNM, the museums of the FOC and the NL will increasingly address original digital cultural assets (“digitally born”) and further develop their 4D object and image database. The SNM will also complete the digital transformation in the areas of marketing and communication.
- In addition to the ongoing digitisation of significant works from its museums and collections, the FOC will examine whether it will award project grants for digitisation projects of museums and collections in the future.
Streaming and mostly global online platforms have recently been a topic of attention, as the Federal Council proposes a measure to contribute financially – in the same way that national television does – to Swiss filmmaking and offer at least 30% of European films. The measures regarding these initiatives are not yet defined. As part of the Culture Dispatch 2021-2024, a revision of the Film Promotion Act and requirements for streaming services in the form of mandatory investments of 4 per cent of domestic revenues in Swiss filmmaking will be discussed in 2021.
Digitisation and the Cultural sector: History
In 1998, Switzerland’s federal government presented its national information society strategy. One important driver in this respect was “sitemapping.ch”, a public project of the Federal Office of Culture including the production, dissemination, archiving, and conservation of digital media art.
In the Culture Dispatch for the years 2012-2015, the federal government pursued the transversal theme “Digital Culture”, a theme that continues at the forefront of the new Dispatch on Culture and especially under the wing of Pro Helvetia.
The measures envisaged in this respect include the utilisation of new information technologies by the Federal Office of Culture for the recording and representation of Switzerland’s cultural heritage and the promotion of reading, the fostering of digital cultural work, including computer games of artistic value (by Pro Helvetia and the Film Section of the Federal Office of Culture), measures on copyright law, and the digitisation of image archives (by the Swiss National Museum).
Example: Haus der elektronischen Künste Basel (HeK)
One important national body in the field of digital culture is the Haus der elektronischen Künste Basel (HeK) (previouslyPlug.in, Forum for New Media and Shift Festival of Electronic Arts). HeK is dedicated to digital culture and the new art forms of the information age and is supported by private foundations, by the FOC (currently with an operating subsidy for the years 2018 to 2022) and the canton of Basel City. It is an important pioneering place that reflects through interdisciplinary forms on the aesthetic, socio-political and economic impact of media technologies.
further data: Federal Statistical Office: Informationsgesellschaft